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Posts from the ‘Up for Discussion’ Category

UfD: Making Changes

While I am away next month the blog is going to be different. I am taking a break from the usual blogging that I do, but that also leaves me with the question, do I continue doing exactly what I’ve been doing when I come back?

One thing I’m thinking of doing is ditching the Up for Discussion Posts, (UfD). I had hoped lake-albacutya-fires-sand-dunes434when I started them that I would get lots of people wanting to guest post, but it never really happened. I had some people say they wanted to do it, but then nothing came of it. It is very hard trying to come up with a topic each week. I thought I could do tutorials, but they are very time consuming to do properly and one tutorial could take me a day to do. At this stage I think it is best to stop them.

I will probably still do some posts discussing something, but not every week. I have thought of not posting on a Friday, or perhaps looking at an image that I have done and discussing what I did to it and why. My motivation behind it. I used to do that a lot, but I somewhere a long the way I stopped, so I would like to get back to doing that as I did enjoy it.

lake-albacutya-fires-sand-dunes443As for the rest of the blog, I’m not sure yet. I think I will continue the Introduction posts, they always seem to be well received. Again, I just have to find people.

Monochrome Madness will continue, that is if people want it too.

I want to keep doing the Weekend Wanderings because it means I have to get out and take photos for them. I can be quite lazy, so having those posts means I have to go and lake-albacutya-fires-sand-dunes438take photos. I might do one as a quick one, with a few photos and then other more detailed. Not sure yet, will see how I go. I have some ideas, but I need to think on them some more.

At this stage my Bits and Bobs post will probably stay, I do enjoy doing that one as well. A great way for me to share what I’m doing. Basically my whole trip is going to be one of those.

Is there anything you would like to see me doing? I’m happy to listen, but will depend on what it is as to whether I will do it.

I still love doing this blog and love the friendships I’ve made through it, but things are getting lake-albacutya-fires-sand-dunes456busy, so I might need to streamline it a little. I want to continue doing it and enjoying it, I don’t want it to become something I have to do.

The photos today were taken almost a year ago in the Mallee around Lake Albacutya. I won’t be there next month, but hoping to get back to take a look before the year is out.

Before I go, I had some good news yesterday and had to share, Nikon will be lending me a D750 for my trip and a 35mm lens. It will be fun to try out a new camera while away.

UfD: Themes and Challenges

It has been a challenge coming up with todays Up for Discussion Post, but then I thought maybe we could talk about whether or not we like themes and challenges.

Some people love them and others hate them.They can be great to get people doing something, or if you have no trouble making work then you might find it too hard to do. Having to stop what you do so you can do a special image for the theme can be a different kind of challenge.



You can see where themes can be great for people who are starting out in photography. It helps them to work out what to take. When many people first start photography they know they want to take photos, but have a hard time working out what they are going to shoot. Themes can help solve that problem. If you are told what to take photos of then your problem is solved.

They can also be to broad for some people. If you are working on a particular body of work then a theme can be distracting from what you are trying to do.

I’ve always avoided themes. For the most part it meant making or taking something just for the sake of the theme. If you aren’t invested in it then how can you do your best work?

Starting the themes for Monochrome Madness was a joint decision between all of us. People said they wanted them so we started doing them. They are very popular and it is great to see how people respond to them.

Here are the images I’ve done for the various MM themes.


Challenges can be another way to help you produce work. It can be a challenge that  you do with other people or something you do on your own. Depending on the challenge you can do your own work and still participate.

Monochrome Madness can be like that. The challenge is to produce a monochrome image each week. Your subject matter is completely up to you. As long as the image is monochrome and you send it in then you are doing the challenge.

There are other challenges you can do too. Many people do challenges for blogging. About four years ago I did one to post a photo every day for a month. I found it got me blogging more and it became part of what I did every day. It was a great challenge for me and it helped me get my blog going.

What are your thoughts on themes and challenges? Do you do them? If yes, why and if no, why?

Here are some photos that I have used in Monochrome Madness this year.

UfD: Locations, Locations, Locations

It is a time old question, “where did you take that image?”. When you see a photo that someone else has taken you immediately think where was it and how can I get a shot like that. You might not, but I certainly do.

There seems to be an attitude around that if you find a great place to take photos then you should share that information, or location. It is something that I have never worried about and have always shared where I have taken my photos, but recently I’m finding that I all I want to do is protect those areas.

abbotsford-convent-abbey-buildings-062I know other photographers that do this, they don’t tell people about the places they go to. At first I thought it was weird, but then it was explained to me that they don’t want to tell people where they go because then everyone else will go there. If people do that then their photos stop being so special.

As I said I have never been one to do that, but I’m starting to want to protect the areas I visit. I’ve had people copying me and going to the same places after I have said where I’ve been and it seems like my originality is not so original after all.

Then I’ve heard some people talk about how they have tried to protect places for whatever reason and then other photographers have got nasty with them. Who wants that?

abbotsford-convent-abbey-buildings-063So then the question becomes do photographers have the right to protect the places they find?

What reasons should they be allowed to protect them?

Do you protect the places you go to take photos?

What reasons would you give for protecting your locations?

Would love to hear your opinions on this.

The photos in the post today are from Abbotsford Convent. It isn’t a place I need to protect as it is well known, not private land and most people in Melbourne would be aware of Convent.

UfD: My Seven Tips for Blogging

Sometimes it is hard to find a topic for these posts, but for a while I’ve been thinking about blogging. I get asked questions all the time about my blog and I thought if you wanted to know my seven top tips for blogging, then what would they be. So I’ve been thinking about them for awhile and this is what I’ve come up with.

1 – Blog like you like to read blogs.

It sounds cliché but it is so true. If you want people to read your blog, think about the blogs you love and then ask  yourself why you like them. Then take those answers and apply them to yours. It is a valuable exercise. You want to railway-0709-1scattract like minded people to yourself, so blog the way they do. Don’t copy them, but look at the ways they do things and see if you can incorporate some of that yourself.

2 – You get what you put in.

I was going to call this point ‘if you build it they won’t come’, but thought maybe not. However, it is true, if you want people to visit your blog, then you need to start visiting other blogs as well. Looking, and liking posts let’s others know you are there and saying hello really let’s them know.

3 – Think about your followers.

I think sometimes people don’t think enough about their followers and how their blog affects them. We all know blogs sczinnia-hdr4that post a single photo and then do that a 100 times a day. If you are following them then every time they post you get an email. Your inbox is filling up quickly. It goes back to that first point, if you don’t like that, then make sure you don’t do it.

4 – Resize your images.

If you post large res images you run the risk of people stealing them. High res images can be used for anything. Don’t think your photos aren’t good enough, there are many people who have thought their images weren’t and found out they had been stolen.

The other problem is that large images can make your blog very hard to load. There are places around the world where the internet connection can be very bad, or people don’t have unlimited data. Make it easy for people to see your blog and make sure you resize your images to smaller files.

5 – People don’t have a lot of time to read.scdwight-hpm6877-5

Someone asked me once how much should they write. I said try for around 500 words. I know that lots of people don’t read my blog and only look at the photos. I can’t be disappointed with that, but for those that do read it I try very hard not to write too many words. I think blog posts shouldn’t be longer than 1000 words at the most. I know it isn’t always easy, but I try hard for that. Now that is my personal preference, you might decide differently. Again it goes back to that first point, if you like reading very long blogs then you could write them.

I have heard, I don’t know if it is still true, that if you want Google to find you that you need at least 300 words. I try to write at least that much, but sometimes I don’t worry.

6 – Be Consistent

Really the trick here is that you shouldn’t be inconsistent. If you blog on regular basis then people will know when to look at your blog. Blogs who only post every now and then are hard to follow. You don’t have to blog every day, but you scbarwon-8016-se1could blog three times a week, once a week or even once a month, just do it consistently.

7 – Be certain about what your blog is about.

It is important to know why you are blogging and follow that through. My blog is about photography, so I won’t suddenly do a post on sewing quilts. If there is no photography angle then I don’t blog about it. Sometimes I sneak things in, but really, I am very strict about that. I suggest you do the same, I think it helps make your blog a lot stronger.

So they are my tips, what would you suggest to someone if they asked you?

The photos are all from the first couple of years that I was blogging. I’m coming up to 5 years soon, so it is always interesting looking back.

UfD: Workshop Lessons

Today for our Up for Discussion post Susan Portnoy from The Insatiable Traveler recently attended a photography workshop and she has written for us what she learned at the workshop. There are some great lessons here and I think we could learn a lot from this.  

Five Essential Lessons (and One Great Tip) I learned about Photography at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops


As a photographer always looking to hone my skills, I recently went on a unique adventure as the guest of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in New Mexico. I’d heard about the globally renowned workshops for years (the workshops are year round and boast an amazing roster of instructors) from photographers who were students and others who had the honor of being asked to teach.

The Santa Maria building where I stayed and where breakfast and lunch was served

The Santa Maria building where I stayed and where breakfast and lunch was served

The Santa Maria building where I stayed and where breakfast and lunch was served
The trip was a great learning experience and completely out of my comfort zone but exactly the kind of push I needed to up my game. When I told Leanne about my visit she thought you might be interested in reading about what I learned. And while it’s all a work in progress, here goes… ~ Susan Portnoy

When you first arrive at the Workshops, Reid Callanan, the company’s founder, will tell you that no matter what course you take the week is not about creating masterpieces, it’s about learning new approaches to photography, opening your mind and eye to fresh ideas and challenging your skills. It was all that and more.

My instructor was fine art photographer and Sam Abell disciple, Brett Erickson. The workshop: “Visions of the American West.

My fellow students and I (nine of us in total), quickly learned that for Brett, “visions” was the operative word. The American West was a backdrop, a muse for our creativity efforts, and we would explore these visions through black and white photography.

When our workshop began, Brett explained that his main objective was for us to “see” the world differently; to be keenly aware of the textures, shapes, and colors that make up a scene and use them to our advantage. He wanted us to discover the story within the photo, the nuances and the complexities, both literally and figuratively, in order to communicate our vision successfully. In short: to thoughtfully craft images rather than just “take” them.

Below are five lessons (and one neat trick) I learned that I believe will help me (and perhaps you) do just that:

1. Identify what you like about the subject or scene

When you come across something you want to shoot, take a moment to ask yourself what you I like about it? Brett explained, “We choose compositions because of the way they make us feel.” Meaning more often than not, it’s emotion not intellect that directs our eye.

At first I found it difficult to articulate what drew my attention beyond the surface (ie. the light is really pretty, or I love the way that looks), but the more I thought about my reaction, the better I perceived the scene. Taking the time to reflect—even for a few seconds—provided me with valuable insight on how make an image that would convey my feelings more accurately.

Take this very simple example: Minutes before I landed in New York from Santa Fe, I took a picture of the wing and the beautiful twinkling lights below (above left). Then I remembered to ask myself why I was drawn to the scene. I realized it wasn’t just the beautiful lights; I loved the idea that I was privy to an extraordinary view of the city from my own little seat in the clouds.

With that in mind, I composed the next shot to include a portion of the window frame, giving the photo a completely different feel. A person looking at the image now has more context. They become a passenger peering through the window with me which is the essence of what I wanted to communicate.

2. Instill your images with Poetry and Metaphor

What makes an image compelling? Brett says, “Poetry and metaphor.” Since that’s a tad esoteric, consider it a sense of depth and meaning that goes beyond the literal scene. What story can you tell? What observation about life, love, friendship, or society, can you work into your image that will make a viewer connect on a level that stirs the emotions? Everyday Brett challenged us to create images with poetry using metaphor. Below are a few of my attempts.

Example 1:

On our second day of the workshop, we visited El Santuario de Chimayo, a tiny Roman Catholic church built in the early 1800’s. A modern day pilgrimage site receiving over 300,000 visitors a year. Outside the sanctuary, crosses made from pieces of unfinished lumber stood bleakly in front of the iron gate that separated the sanctuary from the parking lot. Behind a row of cars, I saw this small cross with the word “Hope” and the crudely carved phrase “Dear Lord Pray for Us All.” It was a passionate plea for help that I imagined had gone unanswered for “Hope” had fallen over.

Outside the gates of El Sanctuario de Chimayo in Santa Fe

Example 2:

Religion is a big business, even in the small town that plays host to Chimayo. In this photo, I wanted to show how commercialization feeds off of religion by featuring the mural of Mary juxtaposed to the litany of signs advertising local shops and businesses.

Outside the gates of El Sanctuario de Chimayo in Santa Fe

Example 3:

On our last day of shooting we ventured to a beautiful area with white rocks teaming with interesting shapes and textures. Brett’s assignment: use a model as a metaphor for something in nature. I was struck by the large, dark boulders that littered the white-washed wonderland. For this image my model, Diaolo, became another rock dotting the rugged landscape.

Outside the gates of El Sanctuario de Chimayo in Santa Fe

3. Slow down and explore your options

Ever see something that you like, snap a picture and then move on? Yep, me too. Next time, slow down and explore your options. In one exercise, Brett asked us to take five photos of something that made us feel. With each shot we had to move closer (or move back) and reassess the picture anew. Did the light change? Was there something new to the scene that we hadn’t noticed before? Did the intimacy of a close-up better communicate our vision or did everything fall apart? The deliberateness of the process forced us to slow down and really look at what we were shooting thus providing new opportunities for inspiration.

Example 1:

When I walked up to this area of the Chimayo sanctuary (photo on the left below), the first thing that struck me was how the telephone poles in the background echoed the cross of the sanctuary building in the foreground. But as I walked closer, I saw the way the soft curves of the archway framed the rectangle door. Then I became intrigued by the stain of the wet adobe and how its soft lines mixed with the multiple triangles surrounding the door’s frame. In the end, I felt the image to the right made a stronger statement than the wider angle that first grabbed my attention. If I hadn’t reminded myself to move in, I would have missed it entirely.

Example 2:

One afternoon, we went to Eaves Movie Ranch, a location used in countless westerns including the The Ridiculous Six, starring Adam Sandler, currently in post production. Thomas, who oversees the ranch, was one of our models and a perfect throwback to that era with his cowboy hat and garb, long hair and grizzly beard. I took him to an old barn that had amazing light to shoot a portrait. At first, I photographed him close up and straight on, but when I experimented with various angles, I liked this framing the best. Here you can see a piece of the paddock and the supply shed in the background. I found it to be more visually interesting, with its subtle layers and horizontal lines, while adding greater context to the photo.

Thomas at Eaves Movie Ranch in Santa Fe

4. Make the most of compositional tools.

Leading lines, diagonals, repetition, frames, patterns, layers, triads, triangles… these are compositional elements photographers use to move the viewer’s eye through the frame creating a more compelling image. And that’s what we all want, right? It wasn’t the first time I’d thought about leading lines or patterns and the like, but working with Brett in a workshop environment brought my awareness and understanding to a whole new level.

Example 1:

In this image I was drawn to the repetition. First the eye focuses on the crosses to the right that are in focus. Then the vertical columns move the eye to the back where the crosses are repeated in the door and on the column to the left of the entrance. The lines in the ceiling also lead the eye to the back where the arches are repeated in the windows and doors.

Thomas at Eaves Movie Ranch in Santa Fe

Example 2:

This was taken from inside the studio doorway of a rather eccentric, 70+ year old painter I met while shooting along Canyon road on our first day. I first noticed the sign on the door and I couldn’t help but think that it’s semi-schizophrenic handwriting suited the quirky artist. Outside, stood his old school bicycle, another glimpse into the man’s unique personality. I loved the combination of the two together.

From a compositional perspective, the open doorway is a strong visual element that splits the image in two, thus grabbing the viewer’s attention. The horizontal plank below the sign is like an arrow leading the eye to the right to where it finds the bike, while the vertical edge of the door echoes the wood in the fence post.


Example 3:

Two horses snuggle in another shot from Eaves Movie Ranch. Besides the obvious “adorable” factor, the image combines three triangles, two are created by each of the horses heads while together they form one large triangle, keeping the eye fixed on the center and the equine bromance.


5. Wait until the next day to look at your pictures

During the workshop I was struggling. Every day we got a new assignment and every day I was convinced my work sucked. I would do my best to create wonderful images that were exploding with poetry and metaphors and nine times out of ten I wanted to throw my camera against a wall. Intellectually, I knew what I was learning was incredibly valuable. Emotionally, I hated that I wasn’t instantly fabulous. It was hard. Granted, I put enormous pressure on myself. I think most creative folks do, which means if you’re reading this, you probably know of what I speak. Here’s my advice, if you’re not happy with the way a shoot is going, stick it out, do the best you can and then leave the pictures alone. If you keep going over it in the moment you’ll just spin yourself into the depths of emotional self flagellation. When I stepped away and gave myself the opportunity to disconnect from the shoot and my frustration, I usually found that when I looked at the images again they weren’t so bad. In fact, sometimes I would surprise myself and find something I really thought was good. Perfectionism is a dangerous thing. Don’t let it get the best of you.

(The Trick) Try shooting black and white in camera.

When I first read Brett’s description of the class, he explained that monochromatic images would play a big part in our workshop and it was part of the reason I signed up. I love the look and feel of black and white photos but I’ve never felt particularly at ease creating them. Like most people, I shoot in color and then convert in post-production using Lightroom and Nik filters. More often than not, I’m not sure whether the conversion will look right until it’s done. It’s always been a bit of a crap shoot for me.

Brett wanted us to be able to see the world in black and white, to instinctively know how various colors would look in grey-scale so that we could be deliberate in the creation of our black and white images. His trick to train the eye: shoot black and white in camera.

By setting my Canon 1-DX to monochrome and then changing the “image quality” to capture both a RAW file and a jpeg (Nikon users don’t need to add the jpeg), I could see a black and white jpeg on my LCD screen in real time, while simultaneously capturing a RAW color file for use later while editing. (You’ll want those color channels available so that you can tweak tonalities.)

I have a ways to go, but I’m slowly understanding how colors will convert so that I’ll be able to spot compelling contrasts from the get-go. Eventually I’ll be able to see the world in black and white without having to look at it on my LCD. At least that’s the plan.

If you have any questions or comments about the photos or the workshops, please ask in the comments below and I will be happy to answer. If you’ve been to SFPW or other workshop, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Susan will be responding to comments, so please if you have questions please ask. I would also like to thank Susan for writing this for us, don’t forget to take a look at her site, The Insatiable Traveler.

UfD: Photographing With Company

There seems to be this idea that if you are a serious photographer that you should go out on your own to take photos. I have never believed this or thought I was any less of a photographer because I don’t like going out by myself. It’s not that I don’t, I just prefer to have company when I do. Maybe I think I’m a boring person and talking to myself all day wouldn’t be that great.

I do understand why some people prefer to go alone and I know that who  you go with is very important.  I thought I could go through why I like company, beyond just having someone to talk to. Perhaps I will do it in a list.LeanneCole-melbourne-williamstown-20140531-9916

1- Gives you Inspiration

I find when you go with someone else that we almost feed off each other, making suggestions to one another. I know that I have many photos that I would never have taken if I hadn’t been with another photographer.

2 – Gets Me Out of the House

I have a terrible habit of talking myself out of going to places when I am on my own. Before I am supposed to go somewhere the excuses start about why I shouldn’t go, and usually I just don’t. If I’ve made a date with someone to go abbotsford-convent-gardens-flowers-macro072then I do. I don’t like disappointing people so I just pack my gear and get ready to go. For me this is a massive advantage.

3 – It is Safer

We go to some places that if I hurt myself I may never be found. Yes, I’m being a little over dramatic, but I could be there for a long time. Knowing that someone else is there means that if one of us hurts ourselves then the other can go and get help. Phone reception is often non-existent in many country areas and if you get into trouble you can’t phone for help.

4 – Someone to Scout for Locations

It isn’t safe to drive and look for places to take photos so having a passenger makes it much easier, and safer. LeanneCole-maldon-20130102-6203-3hpm

5 – More Fun

I just think it is so much more fun when you have someone to laugh with. I enjoy laughing and it is good to have someone to have one with. It is so boring when you are on your own and having someone with you means that you can entertain one another.

Picking the Right People to Go With

This is also very important. I don’t like going with my husband or daughters because they aren’t interested in eildon-lake-water-country-farms-8photography and they just want to leave. I feel rushed to get my photos. The best thing is to find some people that you enjoy going out with and want to spend time with.

It is best if they enjoy the same sort of photography as well so you will want to take photos together. There is nothing worse than going out with someone to take photos and you don’t want to photograph the same things. If you are both there to capture the same thing then you will have a lot more fun.

It is also nice to have someone to have a coffee with and just relax. I like being with others when I go to eat at restaurants, it is much nicer.

I have been very lucky and I have a number of people to go out and take photos with. I have built up quite a few LeanneCole-werribee-20140415--5288friendships through teaching and through this blog. It has been fantastic meeting people through WordPress and then having the opportunity to go out and take photos with them.

It doesn’t really matter whether you prefer to go on your own or with other people, the most important thing is getting out to take photos.

All the photos in the post today are from excursions where I went with other people.  Speaking of company I’m hoping to be out with Chris and Chris today exploring more of the Victorian countryside.

UfD: Protecting You and Your Images

Recently I was given an opportunity to put some work into an exhibition. It seemed like a great idea and I have to say I took a lot for granted and through it I learned a lot. There are things that many of us who don’t exhibit often don’t know or don’t think about.

The Exhibition

The work I had in the exhibition was in a public place, but it wasn’t being watched. I wasn’t the only one with work there and two out of my three pieces were stolen, or have disappeared. Others have experienced the same.

The problem then arises as to who is responsible?

LC01-Lake Charm at SunsetWith almost all exhibitions the gallery or place where you exhibit your work takes no responsibility for stolen or damaged work. When you put your work in to be exhibited you usually do it at your own risk. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really aware of it for this exhibition. It wasn’t until I had gone too far into it that I realized the work wasn’t going to be supervised.

Not long after that we were told that the digital files of all the images would be given to the people who held the exhibition so they could print them out for exhibitions elsewhere. I have to say I was never easy with this idea, but waited until I had a chance to talk LC02-Guiding Lights-wmto someone about it.

What I found out was that the images have just been given to them without any conditions placed on them as to what they can do with them, well as far as I can tell. Everyone has got carried away with the idea that their work might be in further exhibitions. Though we all found out about this before we were aware that images had been stolen from the original show.

So now these people have three of my images, which are all high resolution images, so they can be printed and I have no control over what happens with them. I have asked that they delete them, but who can ever be sure that it actually happens.

Protecting Yourself

I am just going to list some ideas on how you can protect yourself from this happening again. I’m sure others have had similar ideas, so please, if you can contribute please do.

1 – Make Sure You Know the Factsscbarwonheads-4hpm0376-2

By this I mean, make sure you know exactly what is going on. Never assume anything.

2 – Will the Work Be Supervised

Really as soon as I knew it wasn’t going to be I should’ve clicked. The work is not protected from anything. There is no one to stop people from just taking the work, or from destroying it. You really shouldn’t agree to work not being supervised unless it is behind glass or protected some other way. Our work was just pinned to boards.

3 – Find Out About Compensation

If the conditions are like ours, where the work wasn’t secured at all you need to find out if you will be compensated if something happens to it.

4 – Have an Agreement in Writing

LeanneCole-pinklakes-6286-5hpmGet a contract, make sure you know what you are liable for and what they are. Don’t try and be nice, this is your work and you have every right to protect it.

5 – Giving High Resolution Images

It should be, never give them to anyone. Once people have them they can do what they like with them, unless you have a contract. If you have one then you can stipulate what they can and can’t do with them. You have something to protect you.

Our images were given away basically, so we have nothing set up to protect us.


Many competitions require you to send in your images as well and again, you need to be aware of what is required. sccity-3hpm1824Read the fine print, find out what they can and can’t do with your images. It will be there in the Terms and Conditions. You can’t argue with them, and either you agree with them or you don’t, so then you have to decide whether or not you will enter it.

Don’t ever enter a competition where they have full rights to  your images. You might be signing away all rights and they might make millions from your image. You just don’t know.

I hope these points all help you to understand how you can better protect yourself. The part that is the most concerning for me is that we have given away our images and there is control over what they can do with them. They could use them for advertising, they could sell them or they could just give them away. We don’t know.  I am not quite sure what to do now, I’ve requested that my images be removed from them, but I don’t  know how to check that it has been.

So protect yourself, be sure you know what you are doing, be aware of the details, read the fine print, get things in writing.

The images today are ones that I would use for exhibition purposes.